Inmates in California prisons are behind bars for a number of reasons, be it grand theft, fraud or murder. But today, criminals will have something special to be thankful for — a hot Thanksgiving meal.
Of the 365 days a year that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has to feed the inmates in all 33 state prisons, only four of those days are reserved for special holiday meals. Thanksgiving just happens to be one of those days.
The Lodi Police Department, meanwhile, will be serving TV turkey dinners for those who are arrested and end up staying in the Lodi Jail on Thanksgiving.
Spokespersons for the San Joaquin County Jail were unable to say what exactly would be served at the jail today.
Typically, state prison cooks serve a standardized menu to inmates housed in every prison.
But according to Laurie Maurino, the Departmental Food Administrator for California Department of Corrections. of the four holidays a year where the institutions can serve whatever they wish, Thanksgiving meals will consist of traditional options, from savory, roasted turkey to mashed potatoes and gravy.
"Inmates get upset if it is not the traditional menu, especially if they don't serve pumpkin pie," she said.
But Maurino added that outside food from family members is not allowed, even if it is the best pecan pie or green bean casserole around.
"There would be too much opportunity to smuggle drugs in," she said. "The visiting room has vending machines where families can buy inmates food, but no other food is allowed."
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, $158 million was allocated to the department for food, which works out to approximately $2.90 per inmate, per day.
Generally, holiday food menus would be absorbed into the prison's general food budget, Verke said.
And while the exact cost of the inmate's Thanksgiving meal could not be determined for Folsom State Prison, spokesperson Lt. Paul Baker said for the most part, inmates are appreciative of the meals.
In the Folsom prison, for example, Baker said the day will begin as usual, but the count — checking to make every inmate is present — which typically starts at 5 p.m. and lasts about two hours, will begin a half-hour earlier so those who are incarcerated can have more time to eat a bigger meal.
Whether an inmate is on death row or serving a short stint behind bars, there is no discrimination when it comes to a Thanksgiving meal, Baker added.
And while families may not be able to share an evening meal with inmates at one of the 33 prisons, they will be able to visit between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. or 3:30 p.m., depending on the location.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.